When I turned forty, we gave a big party—Malaysian food, every novelty light string (chili peppers, bees, flamingos, Hawaiian shirts) draped around the house, my favorite chocolate orange almond cake. On the invitation, I specified no gifts, but my friend Sheila turned up with a hat box. In it was this hat—a beautiful creation in a nice, neutral straw that goes well with a colorful dress.
This hat and The White on White Hat were my two go-to hats for Easter for years (except last year, when I went with The Birthday Cake Hat). I've included a picture of me wearing it on Easter 2016.
That 40th birthday party was the first time we had given a really big party in our house: the kind where there aren’t enough seats for everyone to sit down at once and so many people are talking you can't hear the music. A friend remarked that she was seeing people she hadn’t seen since our wedding—the last big gathering we’d had. (Side note—my fortieth birthday outfit included the turquoise and green shoes I’m wearing in The Madame X Hat’s full body picture).
Though it was a much smaller gathering, until we left the Bay Area, my husband and I also hosted an annual Easter party. Sometimes we only had family; other times we had friends as well—anywhere from six to sixteen people. We always had an egg hunt. One of my brothers was the Easter Bunny, dying the eggs, arriving early to hide them, and providing the silly bunny-themed prizes. Many years I was the youngest participant. Not long ago, visiting some friends’ house, I noticed they still had the bunny cotton ball dispenser (you remove the cotton tail) they’d won years ago. Some other favorites—bowling for bunnies, where the pins were bunny shaped, a bunny that pooped jellybeans, and my pastel pink Koosh ball, which I took to work and was tossing with a coworker when the big Loma Prieta earthquake struck.
It seemed quite lonely this year with no church and just my husband and me for Easter. Though we no longer live so near our extended families, usually we can entice a family member or two to come. But we tried to make the occasion special, even under quarantine conditions. We listened to our church’s recorded service at the usual time, then Zoomed in for virtual coffee hour. I wore my hat there. We had a special dinner: salmon risotto and asparagus, followed by nectarine cobbler. We used our wedding china and had some roses picked from our yard on the table.
Because this hat always reminds me of good times, of family and friends, it seemed a good hat to wear this year. I wore it in memory of gatherings past, and in hope for gatherings in the future that are once again in person, instead of virtual.
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Ann Hillesland writes fiction and nonfiction and collects hats. In this blog she vows to wear (not just model, but wear out of the house) every one of her hats, blogging about their histories and their meanings for her.